Cairns to be major melanoma research centre

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The latest melanoma research underway in Far North Queensland has been showcased at the 2020 Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service Research and Innovation Symposium, with more than a dozen clinical trials underway to help make Cairns a melanoma research hub.

The latest research into melanoma treatment is being showcased at the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service’s annual Research and Innovation Symposium on Friday.

Cairns Hospital medical oncologist Dr Megan Lyle, a key speaker at the symposium, has revealed that the organisation has been selected – in some cases – as the only Australian regional site for clinical trials to treat melanoma.

Melanoma is of particular importance to the community as Queensland has the highest rate of the condition in the world.

More than 3600 people are estimated to be diagnosed with melanoma in Queensland each year, with 1 in 13 men and 1 in 22 women diagnosed with melanoma before the age of 85.

“We currently have 15 melanoma clinical trials underway here at CHHHS, all of them at various stages of progress,” Dr Lyle said.

“Many of these trials have a very large national and international focus, but in some cases, we have been fortunate enough to have been included as the only regional centre.

“We have an excellent reputation for being able to be involved in these types of trials alongside metropolitan cities such as Sydney and Melbourne.”

Trials currently underway at the Liz Plummer Cancer Centre involve treating melanoma via subcutaneous injection, rather than a standard intravenous (IV) drip; using different types of immunotherapy; and fighting metastatic melanoma, when standard treatments have not worked.

“Up here in Far North Queensland, because we have a tropical environment, there is no shortage of people who are dealing with melanoma,” Dr Lyle said.

CHHHS Clinical Research Unit clinical nurse consultant Sue Richmond, with Cairns Hospital oncologist Dr Megan Lyle

Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service Clinical Research Unit clinical nurse consultant Sue Richmond, with Cairns Hospital oncologist Dr Megan Lyle.

“We are keen to promote our trials to local GPs, to encourage them to refer their patients to us, so they can be involved in the latest treatments.”

The CHHHS Research and Innovation Symposium features 10 invited speakers from the FNQ medical and allied health research community, and 26 overall presentations.

Other topics to be discussed include aged care, infectious diseases, and chronic disease rehabilitation.

Dr Eddy Strivens, the health service’s Acting Director of Research, said research such as Dr Lyle’s work would help lay the foundations for the Far North to have a Cairns University Hospital.

“Our annual symposium is now in its 9th year, and every year out research output as a health service keeps increasing,” he said.

“Far North Queensland has a unique health care profile, so it is important for us to develop our research capacity so we can identify local problems and investigate and implement local solutions.

“This is not only of benefit to local patients, it is also essential to the growth of our health service.

“When – and not if – we become a Cairns University Hospital, we can expect to attract a lot more clinical trials and add to our existing highly skilled clinicians and researchers wanting to live and work in our great region.”